Taiwan president chairs meet of TPP and RCEP taskforce
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-01-03 05:59 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – President Ma Ying-jeou chaired the first meeting Friday of an expanded taskforce dealing with the country’s attempts to join the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

The president promised in his New Year’s Day address that he would enlarge the ‘International Trade and Economic Strategy Taskforce’ in order to prepare Taiwan for more economic liberalization and participation in international and regional free-trade projects.

At the meeting inside the Presidential Office Building, he heard a report from the Ministry of Economic Affairs about the strategy and timetable for promoting Taiwan’s efforts to join the TPP and the RCEP, which he has repeatedly identified as key targets to help the country avoid being marginalized.

The MOEA said the main reason for joining the new groups was that TPP members accounted for 35 percent of Taiwan’s foreign trade and RCEP members for 55 percent.

The taskforce is supposed to cooperate with a private promotion group to be headed by former Vice President Vincent Siew, who has a long record as a trade and economics negotiator and government official. He also represented Taiwan at several Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summits.

Siew’s group was expected to talk to other countries and to function as a platform for communication with business, academics, interest groups and political parties, reports said.

The basic preparations for joining TPP should be ready before July, after the group studies the process which other countries use to apply for membership, officials said.

Ma reportedly wanted each government ministry to produce results in the effort, with a clear division of labor helping to turn the economy around, reports said. Friday’s meeting was only the first of many, since the president wanted to keep up the pressure on Cabinet departments to perform. He reportedly reminded officials that they were working with taxpayers’ money.

Siew’s group would reportedly need two months before it could be formed and start working on its tasks, with its shape becoming clear in February after the Lunar New Year holiday. Ma also called on the opposition to send representatives, but the Democratic Progressive Party questioned his motives for the sudden move, considering the poor climate existing between the two camps.

The opposition also doubted Siew’s ability to redress Taiwan’s economic situation, since the government failed to improve it when he served as vice president from 2008 to 2012. Officials countered that he had ample experience in negotiating with the United States and possessed a wide network of contacts in Southeast Asia and China.

As vice president, he was constricted by Taiwan’s limited diplomatic space, but now that he no longer held an official title, he would be much freer to use his influence, officials said.

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